Schopenhauer once said that the ability to “always see the general in the particular is the very foundation of genius.” Sure. And being a pompous fool too.
The running temptation on the internet is to take a minor observation and turn it some grand theory (Thankfully it’s not as common, but still shamefully alluring to name this theory after yourself. I wince every time I see a “Hugh’s Law” or one of the “Jarvis Laws of Media“). See a poorly run restaurant? – pontificate about the power of customer service. Hear an old media company fucked up? – let’s rant about how awesome blogs are.
Of course these articles always suck. The only people who can stomach them are the ones who have nothing to do with the industry in question – or they’d be struck by the overwhelming amateurism and cluelessness that drown out any value.
It’d be well and good if this stayed and died on the internet, but it doesn’t. People are being raised in this culture, consuming it on a daily basis, and letting it work alchemy on their soul. It’ll turn you into a laughingstock and a do-nothing long before it brings out your genius.
Work it like this, I think: cut yourself off the next time something makes you think “wow, that would make a good blog post.” It won’t. The fact that it feels like it would means it’s probably trite, obvious and self-congratulatory. Give it a some intense study before you expound the value of a new business model. Stop and consider how likely it is that new information will change the nature of the situation and you’ll find you probably don’t need to weigh in just yet.
It’s ok. You’re not missing out on anything. Focus on the vision you’ve planned for yourself. Leave the chatter to the people who enjoy peddling thoughts to empty rooms and avoid the tactic hell that is responding to every particular that pops up in front of you.
I think this goes back to even before the internet with sports talk radio where some fat ass needs to fill up the time so he pontificates about minor bullshit to the Nth degree.
Now that the internet provides “everyone with a voice”, we get ink dumps instead of introspection.
the internet is too immediate, but that’s what makes it fun. back in the day you stuck a story or an idea in a drawer and then looked at it again in five years to see if you still liked it. 99% of the ideas that i think are good usually suck, but it’s the process of having a lot of bad ideas and plans that can bring a person to a good idea.
RE: It’ll turn you into a laughingstock and a do-nothing long before it brings out your genius.
I disagree. A do-nothing is a non-participator, a non-idea generator. Have you ever met a “genius” that would declare him or herself as such? No, it’s a label assigned by others.
I do agree with what you’re saying but I agree with Schopenhauer too. If you could actually see the general in the specific – see the underlying causes rather than just making fairly bland observations on the superficial results – you would indeed be a genius, because you would be avoiding the trap all these people fall into.
“See a poorly run restaurant? – pontificate about the power of customer service. Hear an old media company fucked up? – let’s rant about how awesome blogs are.”
Get stuck behind a bad driver, make a blog post about how the greatest evil in the world is…
Maybe write something that isn’t uptight and douchey?
To Simbera: I agree with you. Finding the general in a series of specifics, and extracting it, for the purpose of creating a new theme or a new way of doing something that would otherwise be considered conventional would be considered genius, but I’ve always refrained from using that word or applying it to others. Whenever I hear about some playwright or scientist getting a genius grant from a foundation it just make me think that it’s too canonized, like genius itself has become a brand. A book called No Logo is really good. Do you know that Obama is considered a “superbrand?”
Re: “the trap all these people fall into,” that’s not a trap, it’s called safety in numbers and subscribing to societal standard or a baseline. There must be a baseline, people in the same safety net, even daddy long leg spiders sleep together at night in a ball that looks like tumbleweed, then go off on their separate adventures during the day, ditto for some breeds of squirrels who have similar behaviors. There is comfort in being part of this trap (at worst) and safety net (at best).
If everyone bucked convention and had original ideas -which were embraced by others and not just the idea generator- the world would be even more crazy and interesting than it already is. the internet, in my singular opinion, promotes dialogue and free expression, as well as limitless opportunities for being anonymous which is a useful tool that can turn into a weapon if not used carefully or with a conscience.
yesterday somebody asked me for my “mission statement,” then a few weeks back someone noted i do not have a phone number on my business card. months ago i was asked why don’t i have a rate card yet? these are all questions from people that can only look at journalism in one singular way, a conventional way. these people don’t get that somewhere along the way journalism turned into an industry and a business, but if you look at ancient times there were and still are storytellers in all cultures. somebody, a well known artist who i greatly admire, called me a “griot” which prompted some research and in many ways i guess i kind of feel more like a griot these days than a professional by conventional stands, but i wish there were a way to be both.
here’s a quote by bertrand russell which explains why people who do things differently are often smirked at or get raised eyebrows. others who don’t understand new “business models” feel like any buck to tradition is a criticism of themselves or their business. naturally those others are drawn to the bucking like a moth to a fame, but those behind the flame need to look at historical patterns more than just the now. being too caught up in the now can be dangerous and like having blinders on.
“Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.
I enjoy that you’re self-aware enough to call bullshit on these theories. You’re right – to those of us outside the industries in question, it seems like a very sensible genre of posts. Thank you for reminding me to think twice.
Keep up the great writing.